« Back Reflection 26.03.2018

How can energy distribution benefit from IIoT?

Tomi Kyllönen, Director, Product Development, Aidon:

Remote electricity meter reading is a popular example of industrial internet. Besides the transmission of meter readings, what else can the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) offer for distribution system operators? Moreover, why is this a hot topic right now?

Industrial internet and its various applications are stirring conversation. More and more players now have access to network solutions, which consist of sensors, communication, information systems and analytics and which are connected to industrial infrastructures. This is enabled by more affordable sensor technology, more capable and less expensive devices which are smaller and require less power, as well as ubiquitous communication networks, and cost-efficient, scalable cloud services with capacity for processing and storing data.

IIoT technology is currently a hot topic in the energy industry, as the field of business is undergoing a major shift. The deployment of remote meter reading has made the energy industry an early adopter of industrial internet – an AMM system can be seen as a first-generation application of industrial internet. On the other hand, the diversification of the energy distribution system increases the complexity of the grid and alters its dynamics. Grid operators will need more visibility over the grid as well as tools for steering and operating it. The devices required for this are now more widely available, and their deployment has become profitable.

Industrial internet adds value – but not without analytics

Although the introduction of remote reading has made the energy industry a pioneer of industrial internet, the field is still taking its first steps in refining and utilizing the data which can be obtained from the grid. Raw data as such won’t take you far. It is of course possible to find something new in a bunch of data you’ve been storing in your desk drawer, but you’re rather unlikely to be able to magically turn it into value-creating insight. However, when you use analytics to combine data from one source, e.g. the meter network, with circumstantial data, e.g. weather data, it is possible to generate a new kind of information which adds value and helps you to optimise your operations, to predict maintenance and to develop new kinds of services.

As I see it, you need to start the implementation of industrial internet business case first. The starting point should be an understanding of your business and its needs. You must ask what kind of tools your data can give you, and what the added value is that the data could yield. In other words, you need to start by identifying a problem of monetary value, and only then set out to see if data can help to solve it. The solution may not be an obvious one; it is often reached through an iterative process combining experiments and headwork.

Consider Aidon’s Power Grid Management solution, which gives you tools for operating the grid, for identifying fault situations and for planning maintenance. This is an example of accelerating existing business. The industrial internet solution that we offer can be compared to digitalising the experiential knowledge of a power grid manager: the system observes the grid and learns to predict incidents even from the smallest signals.

Get started with an open mind

A reliable, safe power grid and data security are some of the prerequisites of designing an industrial internet solution. Usability is also gaining importance. Nonetheless, you should always choose a solution to support your business case. In my view, there’s no point in developing technology for technology’s sake – the point should be the value which you offer your customer. When the aim is to create a solution that truly adds value, it’s essential to find an experienced partner who knows the industry and who can design the solution or service together with the customer.

There is already plenty of data available to simplify and boost DSOs’ work. What DSOs need in order to harness this data is a suitable solution for collecting and analysing the data. Getting started with industrial internet takes courage. However, change can take place very fast, so it pays off to explore the possibilities of IIoT with an open mind and to tap into them right away. Utilising data is no magic. After all, it’s nothing more outlandish than another IT system project. The necessary tools are already available, and with a skilful team you can get going by making small-scale experiments. We at Aidon are ready – shall we start together?